Given that Betsy Butler has been endorsed in the 50th Assembly District by three West Hollywood City Council members, I was incredulous when I read that Butler had been endorsed by the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, a group that has historically led efforts in Sacramento to undermine local rent control laws.
Not only did the Apartment Association oppose the incorporation of the City of West Hollywood back in 1984, it later shepherded the passage of the Costa-Hawkins bill through the California legislature in 1995 that severely weakened local rent control ordinances. Costa-Hawkins has resulted in skyrocketing rents in West Hollywood and Santa Monica and has incentivized efforts to harass and evict long term tenants. It is hard to reconcile Butler’s claim to be a progressive standard bearer when she aligns herself with the folks who would love to eliminate rent control. Butler will clearly sacrifice the interest of thousands of working class tenants to further her personal political ambitions.
The Association clearly stated that its endorsement was based upon Butler’s “balanced approach” when it came to rent control issues. But in light of the persistent erosion by the Democratic controlled State legislature of the local governments’ ability to enact pro-active rent control, it is safe to assume that by use of the word “balanced” the Association meant “pro-landlord.” Of course the endorsement is coupled with a hefty amount of campaign contributions.
Butler had to seek this endorsement and her alignment with the powerful landlords lobby reflects either a complete lack of understanding by Butler of the needs of West Hollywood tenants or a cynical betrayal of renter’s rights. Either way you have to find this endorsement troubling.
Any further weakening of our local rent stabilization laws could result in the displacement of thousands of long term tenants. Our local diversity could go the way of the Red Car along Santa Monica Boulevard.
Given that Butler has been endorsed by West Hollywood Council members John Duran and Jeff Prang, who are both former Rent Stabilization Commissioners, as well as newly elected Council member, John D’Amico, you would think that Butler might have been counseled not to seek the Apartment Association endorsement. I just assumed that these Council members’ endorsements meant that Butler would have some sensitivity toward community concerns. But apparently our local elected officials have little or no influence over the Butler campaign.
Alignment with Local Concerns
In contrast Butler’s rivals are both highly committed to renter’s rights. Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom has a long history of commitment to tenants and the preservation of affordable housing and Torie Osborn has been a consistent advocate. Either of these progressive can be counted on to stand up for tenant’s rights if they go to Sacramento.
Butler’s touting of the Apartment Association endorsement reflects a tin ear to our local concerns that is probably a result of the fact that Butler is a South Bay politico who is a carpetbagger in the 50th Assembly District. Butler is only running on the Westside because Assembly Speaker John Perez did not believe she could be re-elected in her reconfigured South Bay Assembly district.
For Betsy Butler, rent control may seem to be something of an esoteric or philosophical issue. But to many Westside tenants, rent control is a question of protecting our homes. If Butler does not understand the essential role rent control has played in the lives of thousands of Westside tenants, she is not the right person to represent our communities in the State Assembly.